A Note on a 1975 “Grooming” Case from Rotherham

A news clipping, purportedly from the Rotherham Advertiser in 1975:

A 15-years-old girl told police of a house in Rotherham where immigrants too English girls upstairs and where she had been paid to have sexual intercourse with an Arab.

The girl, described [by a pathologist] as “very well used sexually” was put into the care of the local authority at Rotherham Borough Juvenile Court on Wednesday

…A statement which the girl made to the police was read out in court. In it, she said that she first had sexual intercourse at the age of 13 and again a few months later. The boys concerned were dealt with in court, she said.

Later, a Pakistani took her to a certain house in Rotherham where he asked her to go upstairs with him. She refused and left the house, but went back several times.

…On another occasion an Arab had intercourse with her in the house. He paid her £2 and gave 50p to the Pakistani who occupied the house…

….She had seen seen other English girls being taken upstairs by Pakistanis, who picked them up in a certain Rotherham cafe, said the statement.

She would listen to them running about and giggling upstairs and then hear the bed moving.

One English girl came downstairs and said: “he has only given me four shillings.”

…In court, the girl asked for a chance to prove herself… She knew she had done wrong and was very sorry.

A photograph of the article, apparently taken from an archived copy of the newspaper, appeared on social media a week or so ago, and has been passed around as supposed proof of the long-term existence of what are now popularly referred to as either “Asian grooming gangs” or, more crudely and with the purpose of inflaming, as “Muslim rape gangs”. The newspaper title and date are not included in the photo, but there is no reason to suppose that these details are incorrect. (1)

The attitude of the authorities towards the girl in the article is obviously shocking from today’s perspective: clearly, this was a case of child exploitation, yet the girl is simply regarded as a delinquent who needs to be “managed” by the care system, rather than than as the victim of a crime. There doesn’t seem to be any interest in who the predators may be or in curbing their activities.

Those currently promoting this old article do so to suggest that it indicates a long-term cover-up, even though its very existence would seem to indicate the opposite. What it does reveal, though, is that lack of action against this kind of exploitation need not be attributed to “political correctness” or “fear of being accused of racism” – factors that are now regarded as the self-evident causes of failings in more recent cases. Even had the police been minded and able to build a case against the men in 1975, the way that the girl is presented in the article as someone who had “done wrong” reflects social attitudes that would have also influenced jurors and judges.

Of course, one must be wary about extrapolating from 1975 to the 1990s or the 2000s, and one brief and vague newspaper report (plucked out of obscurity by someone to prove a pre-conceived point) is hardly a sufficient basis for building a sociological/criminological theory about the factors that lead to “grooming gangs” and why the phenomenon apparently went largely unchecked despite legislation. That task is probably better left to someone who has made a study of the subject, such as for instance UCL’s Ella Cockbain.


1. “Four shillings” in the article refers to pre-decimal currency, but one-shilling and two-shilling coins remained in circulation for many years after decimalisation in 1971, used alongside the the new 5p and 10p coins. The habit of referring to “shillings” thus persisted through the 1970s and beyond, to the confusion of those too young to remember the earlier currency.